Summer’s best mortgage rates keep getting better

Photo: Amy Fontinelle

I’m not sick of writing it yet. I hope you’re not sick of reading it.

Mortgage rates are the lowest we’ve ever seen -- again. The average rate in late June fell to 3.89%, according to our national survey of lenders, a record low.

These low rates mean you could be in a significantly better position to buy or refinance this summer compared to this time last year, when the average mortgage sold for 4.66%.

Read my latest mortgage story, Summer’s best mortgage rates keep getting better, to find out what mortgage industry experts Amy Tierce, Xavier Epps and Shawn Gilfedder say about how you should compare rates offered by different lenders.

Even when average rates are this low, you still need to shop around if you want to get the best deal. It's worth your trouble--you might be paying this interest rate for as long as 30 years, after all.

Take a pass on latest ploy to get you to switch checking accounts

Photo: Tambako

A new promotion from SunTrust Bank and Delta SkyMiles offers a miles debit card with sign-up bonus of 30,000 miles.

But you'll have to open a qualifying checking account and establish a recurring direct deposit.

This offer gets you thinking about all the wrong things.

We’ve seen debit cards with rewards before, though many of them have been going extinct since last year. Here's what the biggest banks are currently offering:

-Chase doesn’t appear to offer any debit card rewards program right now.

-Bank of America’s only offering is an Alaska Airlines debit card with a small account opening bonus and mediocre rewards of 1 mile per $2 spent.

-Wells Fargo is ending its debit card rewards program as of August 1.

-Citibank offers ThankYou Rewards with its checking accounts. The program awards points for activities like ongoing direct deposits and automatic bill payments and maintaining an automatic savings plan.

We’ve also seen checking accounts offer cash bonuses before, usually for opening an account with a certain amount of money, establishing direct deposit of your paycheck and jumping through a few other hoops.

But now we’ve found a bonus that’s being marketed specifically with a debit card.

Get the full details in my article, Take a pass on latest ploy to get you to switch checking accounts.

And before signing up for any rewards debit card, take these three steps:

1. Find out what fees are associated with the underlying checking account. How much will the fees affect you? How significantly will they eat into your new account bonus?

2. Consider the security risks. Think about whether you want to use your debit card as heavily as these deals require since the more you use your card, the greater your exposure to debit card fraud, which leaves you more vulnerable than credit card fraud.

3. Make sure you'll be able to meet all the requirements to actually earn the bonus. For example, in the deal covered in my article, you must receive your first direct deposit by a certain date; your direct deposit must come from an employer or outside agency; you must open your account with at least $100; and you must make your first debit card purchase by a certain date.

If the requirements will be too much of a pain for you to meet, there are plenty of other account opening bonuses to choose from.

Mortgage closing guarantees are practically worthless


With late closings so common in real estate, a number of mortgage lenders are offering an on-time closing guarantee that promises borrowers cash if the loan closes late.

But these guarantees are full of loopholes that leave lenders plenty of wiggle room to get out of paying up on the pledge. Learn why mortgage closing guarantees are practically worthless in my latest article.

What is a short sale and how does it differ from a foreclosure?

Photo: tyo

If you’re shopping for a home, you’ll probably come across at least one property that’s listed as a short sale.

Many buyers are unfamiliar with this term and don’t know how a short sale works.

To understand the process, you have to understand the situation that the seller and the seller’s lender are in.

A short sale occurs when a lender allows a delinquent borrower to sell her home for less than she owes on the mortgage because the home is now worth less than what she originally paid.

Get the rest of the details in my article, What is a short sale and how does it differ from a foreclosure?

Factors that influence a home’s appraisal value

Photo: lucho++ 

When you buy a home, your lender will order an appraisal to determine the fair market value.

The appraisal is important to the lender because the home serves as collateral for the loan.

If you’re unable to repay your mortgage and the lender forecloses, it wants to be able to sell the home to recoup the money it lent you, so it has to make sure you’re not overpaying.

Learn about the factors that influence a home’s appraisal value in my article.

The Best States To Start Your Business

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If you're thinking about starting a business, you may have heard that some states would be better locations for your company than others.

Moving from the Washington, D.C., area to south Florida meant major savings for Roberto Verrocchio, owner of Antico Elements Architectural Products in Miami.

“If I had to rent the same retail / office space in the DC area it would cost me a fortune. Miami rental rates are still very competitive,” he says.

Verrocchio also saves on state income taxes because Florida has none. (The other states with no state income tax are Alaska, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Washington and Wyoming.)

Assuming you’ll be living in the state where your business is based, cost of living is important, too. In addition to low taxes, you’ll want to look for low housing, transportation and energy costs.

The type of business you’re running may limit your list of potential locations, however. If you want to operate a ski resort, Texas and Florida aren’t going to be appealing choices even if they do have low taxes and a low cost of living.

Read more about how your choice of state can affect your business in my Investopedia article, The Best States to Start Your Business.